The massive explosion of growth for household tech giants Google and Facebook has been fueled by an underground data market. While this evolution of exact targeting has cleaned up the digital airwaves and allowed relevant advertisements to match relevant customers in real time, the consequences of this massive system are starting to come to light. The Mueller investigation, new EU regulations and recently Cambridge Analytica are unveiling the ugly side of this unregulated market. The increasing prevalence of mobile and availability of LTE has further digitized our lives and blurred the line between profile and personality. As our virtual profiles become more important to our daily lives, the system in place that quantifies, segments and commodifies our digital attributes characteristics to the highest bidder must be scrutinized.
The recent breaches of consumer data is a highly nuanced issue. While many critics have opposed the overarching consequences of unregulated data manipulation, recent events have continually exposed the lack of fundamental oversight FB and Google have for their massively profitable advertising systems. The Adpocalypse was a direct result of Google failing to vet their most nefarious placement partners. FB’s statements to the House Intelligence Committee, which admitted only a few thousand users saw Russian advertisements, have been proven to be gross underestimates. The truth is these tech giants’ advertising models have grown out of hand. They have been unable to control who gains access to what audience if their pockets are deep enough and their current systems in place only reward those with the deepest pockets. In the end, the consumers end up footing the bill. Their digital attributes are collected, quantified and sold to the highest bidder and then in turn this bidder turns around and pushes their agenda specifically molded to each user.